London is a rather creative place. And the people living and working in it likes to be seen as such. But does creativity – and here we’re not just talking about designing a new poster for Lady Gaga’s world tour or writing the new ad for your favourite alco-pop, because most professions (bar accounting of course) can to some extent benefit from creativity – hinge on having wacky furniture and organically sourced civet-dropping mocha beans run through the copper piping of a coffee machine that requires a degree in physics?
We live in a time where companies vie for the best and brightest creatives. Their way of going about it is by outdoing each other in terms of the perks they offer: nap rooms, foosball tables, free food and even fireman slides (let’s blame Google).
But having a few beanbags strewn around and your CFO challenging the intern on the ping pong table might not be for every company, according to experts.
Googlefying the office might be more detrimental than you think. Treating the workplace as a playground can have an adverse effect on work ethic and productivity. Transforming the office into what is essentially a teenage boy’s dream infantilises the staff and could undermine the integrity of your business.
In fact, quite the opposite is needed to create the optimum space for creatives to flourish… As the second-ever president of the US of A, John Adams, pointed out: “Genius is sorrow’s child.”
Eric Weiner once wrote in an article on latimes.com that “a disproportionately large percentage of geniuses lost a parent, usually a father when they were young. Many suffered illnesses throughout their lives. Thomas Edison was partially deaf, Aldous Huxley partially blind. Alexander Graham Bell and Picasso were dyslexic. Michelangelo, Titian, Goya and Monet all suffered from various illnesses that actually improved their artwork. What doesn’t kill you may not make you stronger, but it will make you more creative.”
While we aren’t advocating cutting off your left ear to incite a moment of creative genius, Mr Weiner is on to something… He mentions that “[I]n one classic study, Ronald Finke, a professor of psychology at Texas A & M University, asked participants to create an art project. Some people were given a wide range of materials, others little. Finke and his colleagues found that the most creative work was done by those with the fewest choices — that is, with the most constraints.”
It seems then that plush, cushy environments are not quite what drives creative workers. Instead, facility managers should give them only what they need – a height-adjustable desk and a modern ergonomic office chair – and have their manager stand behind them, arms akimbo.